Numbers of zealous, meritorious, and valuable officers have made the duties of the general staff objects of special study; have embraced the staff as a branch of the profession in which under existing laws they are entitled to promotion for merit and long service, just as the line officers have a right to promotion in their branch.
This bill deprives the staff officers of this the great incentive to the zealous discharge of duty. It debars them from promotion to the higher grades of their own branch of service, and bestows these prizes of honorable ambition on the officers of the line, who will thus monopolize the promotions to the higher grades, both in the line and staff, to the entire exclusion of the officers of the latter. Few will be willing to remain in the staff under such circumstances. Those who consent to continue will be those least ambitious of promotion, and the whole staff service will be impaired in tone and efficiency.
III. The assignment of general officers to staff duties as provided in the bill would leave many brigades, some divisions, and perhaps some corps without their appropriate commanders, and no provision is made to supply the vacancies thus created. Are their commands to be considered vacant and successors appointed? If so, what is to become of those assigned to staff duty, should the commanding general revoke the assignment? If the contrary, many brigades will be commanded by the officer next in rank to be assigned brigadier, however incompetent such officer may be to command a brigade, and the like would occur as to divisions and corps, in contravention of the policy, well considered and established, that general officers are appointed by selection for merit, and not promoted by seniority. If the commanding general is ordered to another command, is he to take his staff with him, or is he to leave it for service with his successor? In either case, is the whole general staff of each army to be changed at the caprice of the new commander? This must be the effect of the bill, for the power to assign necessarily implies the power to revoke, as it would otherwise be equivalent to a permanent appointment, that could be made only by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate.
IV. The fourth objection to the bill is that it applies one rigid rule for the number of the general staff, based solely on the rank